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ACADEMIC MISSION ON THE PECHORA

Дата публикации: 15 ноября 2021
Автор(ы): Alexei IEVLEV
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: RUSSIA (TOPICS)
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №1, 2014, C.46-52
Номер публикации: №1636974537


Alexei IEVLEV, (c)

by Alexei IEVLEV, Cand. Sc. (Geol. & Mineral.), Head of the Chernov Geological Museum attached to the Institute of Geology of the Komi Scientific Center, the RAS Ural Branch (Syktyvkar)

 

In Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, among the memorial plates devoted to notable events and outstanding public figures of the region, there is a simple one installed on the two-storeyed wooden building preserved by a miracle in the city center in Babushkin Street, 5: "On June 19, 1933, there was held a reception in this building in honor of the first elected President of the USSR Academy of Sciences, father of Russian geological school Alexander Karpinsky." Eighty years ago he visited the Komi Autonomous Region, where substantial power resources of the country and mineral deposits were accumulated, as a member of the Pechora group of the Polar Committee of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which played a prominent role in the fate of academic science of the northern region and the solution of practical problems of studies and development of its natural resources.

 
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INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE NORTH

 

By 1933 the awareness of the role of the Pechora territory as a new major national economic region of the USSR had already taken shape in general terms. Immediately after the discovery of high-quality coking coals by Georgy Chernov, Dr. Sc. (Geol. & Mineral.), a well-known representative of the national geological dynasty, on the Vorkuta River in 1930, Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council of National Economy (SCNE) Valery Mezhlauk held a series of meetings in Moscow on industrial development of the Pechora coal basin and set a task to start its prompt mining.

 

The industrial development of the north started on a large scale. On April 20, 1931, the SCNE adopted a resolution "On the Development of a Fuel Base in the Northern Region", which provided for laying of mines in the area of the Vorkuta and Adzva rivers with coal output of 7,000 t in 1931 and also a trial coal slit in the Necha River basin with coal output of 2,000 t. These works were entrusted to the Ukhta Expedition of the Joint State Political Department. Four days later there was issued a resolution of the Bureau of the Communist Party of the Northern Regional Committee "On the Speed-up of Prospecting Works and Industrial Use of Pechora Coal and Oil Fields". Formed in early May of 1931 by order of the Ukhta Expedition head Yakov Moroz, the Coal Committee approved a coal production program in the amount of 9 thous. t and worked out measures on the transfer of manpower, draught cattle and building materials to the areas of the Adzva, Necha and Vorkuta rivers. As a result, by the end of the year 9,884 t of the valuable raw material were mined, which made up 108.9 percent towards the plan target. In its resolution "On the development of coal industry in the Pechora River Basin" (1932), the Council of Labor and Defense admitted availability of substantial reserves of fossil fuel there and determined practical measures concerning the development of natural resources. Established in November of 1932, the Ukhta-Pechora Complex of Enterprises started in the region exploration and exploitation of deposits, construction of railways and earth roads, residential and cultural and social institutions, waterway communications with construction of mooring and storage facilities, organization of river shipbuilding and also repair works for future mines, oil fields and river fleet. In a word, the development of the Pechora region natural resources entered upon a commercial stage.

 

However, the accelerated large-scale development of regional resources depended on a transport problem. The natural resources sector of the USSR State Planning Committee (1933) discussed the reports of geologists Nikolai Tikhonovich and Nestor Kulik on the results of the prospecting works of the Ukhta-Pechora Complex of Enterprises in 1929-1932 and resolved: "All ideas to develop the Pechora basin reduced mainly to a number of substitute solutions whose design and construction required a nice bit of money", but they "were just palliatives, which darkened the general future of the Pechora region development." According to the State Planning Committee, by that time three points of interest were singled out in the region: Vorkuta and Pay-Khoy (coking coals and complex ores), Ukhta (oil and asphaltites) and Shchuger (mineral coals). It was necessary to decide a problem of construction of transport routes for rational development of the revealed deposits and also to draw up a comprehensive development plan for the Pechora region for the near future. These tasks were assigned to the Pechora group of the Polar Committee of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

 

FROM LOCAL PROBLEMS TO GLOBAL ONES

 

The Polar Committee was established at the Academy of Sciences in 1914 as a reply to the immediate needs of Russia. Leonid Breitfus, a Russian-German zoologist and hydrographer wrote in one of his works: "If the idea of creation of such standing Polar Committee was long in the air, it received an impetus by the latest discoveries of Russian sailors in the Arctic Ocean, which stimulated an inter-

 
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est to explore these lands. Thus, it was not academic considerations but the needs of practical life that called forth a problem of creating a committee which, on the neutral soil enjoyed confidence of the government and society, could unite works of individual persons and societies in the field of polar explorations... The initiative of this undertaking proceeded from the Academy of Sciences." In his opinion, one of its primary objectives implied studies of mineral resources, especially coal, accumulated in the North.

 

The issue of sending a special academic mission to the Pechora River basin and the Arctic Ocean islands was originally raised by the Planning Committee of the Leningrad Region. Besides, it set a rather "narrow" goal: to get acquainted with regional resources, "considering them mainly in terms of ensuring the fuel and raw material base of Leningrad industry". But Alexander Tolmachev, an academic secretary of the Polar Committee of the USSR Academy of Sciences, suggested to expand the exploration program of the Pechora basin as a new national economy complex of the country. He became head of the mission. Yuri Maximovich, chief engineer of the Ukhta-Pechora Complex of Enterprises was appointed its secretary. The expedition included well-known specialists, such as Sergei Kertselli (reindeer-breeding and animal husbandry), Alex-

 
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ander Shennikov (geobotany), Mikhail Yedemsky (geology) and also a number of scientists engaged in geophysics, chemistry, mining, power engineering, economy and studies of local lore, history and economy.

 

President of the USSR Academy of Sciences Alexander Karpinsky, who considered it necessary to come into personal contacts with the leaders of the Northern Region, participated in the group's work at the first stage. Yet before his visit to Syktyvkar on April 7, 1933, he sent a letter to the Komi Regional Planning Committee, in which he specified the basic objectives of the mission. In its turn the committee prepared to his visit the booklet "On the Problem of the Pechora Industrial Complex" with a description of his vision of local science development. Among the reasons hindering a forward movement, the authors mentioned the absence of a general plan of comprehensive studies of the territory with a specific goal, a random character of expeditions and duplication of research issues. The local authorities stressed: "There was no coordinating center to accumulate the results of work and shape further prospects of research work. This led to discord and neglect in work." In the end it was suggested to create a complex base of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the Pechora basin.

 

BY NORTHERN ROUTES

 

The Polar Committee group decided to work out recommendations for industrial development of the European North-East. It was entrusted with a task of studying the geological structure and resource potential of the territories, soil and climatic characteristics, means for organization of agriculture and animal husbandry. In other words, the research work of the academic expedition was of a strongly marked applied nature.

 

On June 6, 1933, the committee members left Leningrad for Arkhangelsk, where they discussed prospects of development of research works in the Komi territory. After that the scientists sailed up the Northern Dvina and Vychegda rivers. They inspected limestone and gypsum deposits (Ust-Pinega and Orlets), bituminous slates (Kotlas), saline springs in Solvychegodsk, the Gamsk iron-ore deposit in the Zhesharta area and reached Syktyvkar on June 19. Here Karpinsky advanced an idea of organizing stationary academic studies in Komi, thus confirming correctness of the proposal made by the republican authorities.

 

After a number of meetings in the regional capital, the group started for Ust-Vym, wherefrom Karpinsky and several accompanying persons returned by ship to Arkhangelsk. The other members came by car to the settlement of Chibyu (the future city of Ukhta). Their six-day inspection of the survey studies of the Ukhta-Pechora Complex of Enterprises ended in a scientific and technical conference. The scientists recommended acceleration of geological prospecting, in particular, a wide introduction of geophysical methods. Among their basic conclusions there was recognition of commercial significance of the Ukhta oil-bearing field. Besides, the

 
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expedition members drew a special attention to the necessity of developing a transport system for rapid utilization of the Pechora territory.

 

From the settlement of Chibyu the group sailed by boats to the village of Izhma, where during two days it got acquainted with local agriculture. On July 17 the scientists were already in Vorkuta, where they took part in a meeting in honor of laying of Rudnik-Usa narrow-gauge railway and held a meeting devoted to problems of coal deposit development. Then they went by river to Adzva and Shchuger coal deposits and visited Ust-Voya and Kamenka. On August 8, the expedition reached Ust-Usa and two days later Ust-Tsilma, where its members acquainted with the work of the agricultural station and discussed matters dealing with establishment a strong point of the Academy there. Then they sailed up the Pechora River to Naryan-Mar, wherefrom started for Arkhangelsk for summing-up of preliminary results.

 

EFFECTIVENESS OF THE ACADEMIC "LANDING FORCE"

 

In 1933, the member of the Pechora group Mikhail Yedemsky prepared the first bulky summary work on geology and mineral resources of the northern territory, submitted to the State Planning Committee (in 1934 it was published as a separate edition). On the basis of research results of the outstanding discoverer of natural resources of the European part of the Polar Region Professor Alexander Chernov (1877-1963) and his colleagues, Yedemsky specified commercial reserves of oil and coal in the Pechora territory and necessity of their further prospecting and mining.

 

On October 7, 1933, the USSR Academy of Sciences resolved to include the Pechora basin into a list of its major research territories. Two months later the Bureau for the Northern Region Studies under the Polar Committee of the USSR Academy of Sciences was set up with a council including the abovementioned Tolmachev as chairman, Chernov, Kulik and others. Its creation was a direct result of the Pechora group activities, though its tasks were initially limited by consultative functions and processing of scientific materials. But soon there arose an urgent need of carrying out new research works unaided. In 1934 the bureau employed four persons and in 1935 already eleven.

 

In February of 1935 the USSR Academy of Sciences held a meeting on the expedition results and adopted a work concept of national economy development of the Pechora territory for 1935-1950. The meeting was attended also by specialists from the State Planning Committees of the USSR and RSFSR, People's Commissariats, the Main Department of Corrective Labor Camps (GULAG), Giprovodtrans and representatives of

 
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the local authorities. It is evident that the academic community assessed the development prospects of the Pechora region as a part of further development of the whole European North-East of the country and not only of the Komi Autonomous Region.

 

The work concept implied organization of a complex research station of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the Pechora region. As a result, in August of 1939 there appeared the Syktyvkar Group of the Northern Base of the USSR Academy of Sciences headed by the geologist engineer Pavel Kalinin. It received a small room in the building of the Council of Ministers of the republic. The World War II accelerated the process of establishing a big academic institution. In 1941 the Kola Base of the USSR Academy of Sciences was evacuated to the Komi capital, where it joined the Syktyvkar Base and together they formed the Base of the North Studies, headed by the well-known geochemist and mineralogist Academician Alexander Fersman. It became a forerunner of the future Komi Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

 

The confirmation of correctness of the research work carried out by the Ukhta-Pechora Complex of Enterprises was another important practical outcome of the Pechora group activity. It was of special importance for GULAG, as heads and main executors of research and mining activities in the Pechora region were scientists and specialists convicted as "enemies of the people". In support of this argument we can give an example from the biography of the chief geologist of the Ukhta-Pechora Complex of Enterprises Nikolai Tikhonovich, who served his sentence in the settlement of Chibyu. When the problem of laying a wildcat was discussed, which produced a gush of oil on the Chibyu deposit in October of 1930, he prepared a memorandum on 56 sheets and made 10 drawings, which were handed over by GULAG officials for examination to the founder of national petroleum geology Academician Ivan Gubkin (1871-1939). The latter approved the proposal of the highly qualified but convicted specialist.

 

TRANSPORT STRATEGY

 

And the last point which is worthy of mentioning, i.e. about differences of opinion among the expedition members and representatives of the regional authorities in handling the transport problems. Nobody doubted necessity for transport networks. There were different views as to what main lines should be developed. The scientists suggested control of the river Usa and expansion of the Pechora port, carrying out of an expert technical examination of Adakskaya dam, the Kama-Pechora-Vychegodsk river system and also construction of railways Pinyug-Syktyvkar and Vorkuta-Yushar.

 

It is worth mentioning that the Pechora group did not visit the aforesaid railway construction sites, but was present at laying of the narrow-gauge railway from the Vorkuta Rudnik to the Usa river. But the book by Alexander Chernov, published in 1935, basing on the opinion of the Planning Committee of the Northern Region, criticized such handling of the transport problem: "... we regard development of the water transport only as a partial solution of the whole problem... The railway Vorkuta-Yushar is also only a partial solution of the whole problem. Its cardinal solution lies in main lines: latitudinal direction westwards to Arkhangelsk, diagonal south-west direction to Moscow and meridional along the Urals both on the western and eastern sides... For many years we are strong supporters of the diagonal direction."

 

It is well known that the surveying works carried out on the route Vorkuta-Yushar (Khabarovo) in 1932-1934 proved that the ice conditions in the Barents Sea would affect unfavorably further sea transportation of the Vorkuta coal, therefore the railway construction was recognized inexpedient. The railway branch-line Pinyug-Syk-

 
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tyvkar was constructed with intervals in 1929-1933, and became one of the first "dead" lines in the USSR. The diagonal direction Vorkuta-Moscow ultimately was approved due to the resolution adopted on May 9, 1940, "On the construction of the North Pechora trunk railway and development of mining of Vorkuta-Pechora coals". The first train came to Vorkuta on December 28, 1941. Thus, by 1935 the options of construction of the railway lines Syktyvkar-Pinyug and Vorkuta-Yushar had already been worked out, and their construction stopped. Therefore, the transport solution suggested in the work concept of the national economy development of the Pechora region was practically out of date by that time

Опубликовано на Порталусе 15 ноября 2021 года

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